The Minnesota Timberwolves have twice been waiting this season for the return of their franchise player, Kevin Love. Back in the preseason, Love broke his hand doing knuckle pushups and ended up missing the first three weeks of the season. When he returned to action near the end of November, he struggled a lot with his shot and drew the ire of many fans for his comment in an article from Yahoo Sports.
In an early January game against the Denver Nuggets, Love re-broke the bones in his hand and was supposed to miss the next 8-10 weeks. After receiving the news this past Wednesday that he'd need another 2-3 weeks before he could be re-evaluated and cleared to return to basketball action, Love is starting to admit he might not play again this season.
Timberwolves forward Kevin Love knows the season is ticking away on him and he said before Friday's game at Houston there's a chance he won't play again this season.
“I'd say that has crossed my mind, but as far as making a decision, I haven't made that decision yet,” he said.
Love joined the team in Houston on its two-game trip that ended Friday night against the Rockets. He learned Wednesday in a visit to his New York City hand surgeon that his right shooting hand hasn't yet healed enough for him to play.
He said he will have that hand scanned again in two to three weeks and the results will be sent to his surgeon, who will then determine if he can play the season's final two to three weeks.
Anybody who has been around Love over the past few weeks has seen that he's in much better shape physically than he was the first time that he came back from a broken shooting hand this season. He's a lot trimmer than we saw him a couple months ago.
However, the idea that he might not play again this season is a bit frustrating for the Wolves and their fans. With the team headed into a big offseason that will involve a lot of pivotal moves for the franchise's future, knowing what they have with a core of Love, Nikola Pekovic, Andrei Kirilenko and Ricky Rubio is a big deal. Without seeing these guys play together with Derrick Williams, Chase Budinger and Alexey Shved, the Wolves don't really know if the high expectations from the preseason were valid.
Many people picked the Wolves to be not only a playoff team but to also challenge for home-court advantage in the first round. Instead, they haven't seen a second of their projected starting lineup on the floor together as they've battled injuries to Love (hand), Budinger (knee), Kirilenko (calf and back), Pekovic (abdominal and groin), Brandon Roy (knees) and Rubio (ACL recovery).
Kirilenko could opt out of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and Pekovic will be a restricted free agent. There seem to be conflicting thoughts within the organization whether Pekovic will be worth the projected price tag that comes with a center who can score inside and rebound. Retaining everybody on the roster would put the team near the luxury tax going forward, and there is the pressure of keeping Love happy so he doesn't opt out and leave the team in two years when he has that option.
Love still wants to play the final 8-12 games of the season to give the fans something to look forward to next season, build chemistry with his teammates and show the front office whether what they have going forward actually fits together.
“The hand is great, my body feels great. It's going to be a big offseason. Part of coming back [yet this season], you want to give the fans something, but you also want to do something for the team and yourself. You kind of want to see what you have here when you have a full team, and we really haven't had that yet.”
It shouldn't be too alarming that Love is aware that the end of the season is near and he could end up not playing a game past early January. But the possibility is there with his timetable for return not being what many thought it would be before his visit to the doctor last Wednesday.